Monday, December 27, 2010

Way behind in the photography department...

There just aren't enough hours in the day!

People keep asking to see my latest work... but you see, the thing is, I've been creating new pieces but not photographing them as often as I should. Seems like I've mostly been making new earring styles. If you've read this blog right along, you know I love making earrings.

Here's a recent earring design - the only one I've photographed lately.

I'm planning on making some improvements and adding more work to my Etsy shop in the next few weeks - before classes begin again. I've got dozens of earrings to put in the shop (which means taking lots of pictures!).

Guess I'll just have to find some more hours in the days ahead...

Monday, December 20, 2010

More books - and gifts...

That wonderful box of books from Lark Books contained a couple of others that I didn't include on the last post. They're lovely books, but not so much suited to my style so I didn't review them as thoroughly. But I know that some of you who are reading this would enjoy them very much. And in the spirit of the Holiday Season, I'd like to give these books to someone who could put them to good use. If you'd like a chance to receive one of these books, please leave a comment with the title you like to have (if you'd like a chance at either one just say that) and I'll randomly draw a name for each book next Monday and announce the winners!

Ceramic Bead Jewelry by Jennifer Heynen is a colorful adventure into the art of ceramic bead making. If I didn't have a million other things on my to-do list, I might be tempted to try my hand at this... and though I didn't review the instructions in detail, it seems the first several chapters cover the basics quite well. The step by step instructions don't have images for each step, but the preparation is so thorough that it seems unnecessary. Great photography and cheerful ceramic beads make this book fun to look through. And with the price of silver these days...

Contemporary Bead & Wire Jewelry by Nathalie Mornu & Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott is full of ideas and projects for beaded and wire wrapped jewelry. With projects from earrings to pins to necklaces, you'll surely find something fun to try. I'm not very experienced with this kind of wire wrapping, and I felt like there could have been more instruction for someone just starting out, but anyone who was familiar with the techniques could probably jump right in!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A few books (for your Holiday wish list perhaps...?)

Last week, Lark Books sent me some jewelry books for review (nice blogger fringe benefit). Lark does a wonderful job with craft books so I was thrilled to get them. The titles had been recently re-released in paperback but they were all new to me. Three of them stood out - and one of those was actually on my Amazon wish list...

I think that Joanna Gollberg's The Art & Craft of Making Jewelry is great reference book. This is a book on traditional jewelry making and includes a section on metal clay - which you know I'm always happy to see included in such a book. She covers a wide variety of essential jewelry techniques with great photographs and step by step instructions. And each section includes a beautiful gallery with inspirational images from many of the top jewelry artists working today.

As a metalsmith, I found this book very approachable and the photos clear and helpful. I think the basic instruction provides enough information for a beginner to understand the techniques, though it might be a stretch for a total beginner to complete some of the projects. The techniques have step by step photos, but the project pages only show an image of the finished piece and the steps are simply described. Since the book is not presented just for beginners, but rather a "complete guide to essential techniques," it is well suited to anyone wanting a technique overview and project ideas that will help them gain experience. Granulation is one example of a technique that is appropriate for someone with intermediate to advanced metalworking skills. I know that many who are reading this blog are metal clay artists, so if you're adding metalworking skills to your repertoire, I definitely recommend this book.

One thing that struck me about Making Metal Beads by Pauline Warg, was that some of the beads could easily have been completed in metal clay. This is another excellent book that offers thorough instruction and great step by step images of the techniques used for the beads. It also includes beautiful gallery images. As promised, it's full of "Techniques, Projects, (and) Inspiration."

Right away I noticed an image (page 10) that showed sheets of textured metal with areas cut out (presumably used for the beads), which is exactly what I often use to describe one of the advantages of metal clay. Here the author is left with textured "scrap," when that same texture could have been applied to metal clay without the waste. If metal clay were used, the excess would have been gathered up and reused... (hey, just getting in a plug for an appropriate use of metal clay!)

Of course, not all of the beads could be made as easily in metal clay. Many require the use of traditional metalworking techniques. And the basic techniques necessary to accomplish these beads are well illustrated and explained in detail - from sawing to soldering - making this book good for a beginning jewelry student. But it's not just a beginner's book, there are some rather complex beads, including intricate beads using cold connections, as well as pierced, pressed, fused beads and more. There are some beads which are cleverly designed and constructed using commercial tubing in both traditional and non-traditional ways. If you're interested in new ideas for making metal beads, this book will get you off to a great start.

This was the book on my Amazon wish list - The Complete book of Glass Beadmaking by Kimberley Adams. What a nice surprise to find it in the box! I like making enameled beads with a torch and playing with molten glass... and once I made a true lampworked bead with instruction from a friend - it was a little wobbly - but I've always wanted to try again. After looking online and comparing reviews for several glass bead making books, I put this on my wish list because it clearly came out on top.

Now that I've had a chance to look it over, I know I would have been happy if I had ordered it. The instruction and photography are so clear I feel like I could really be successful by following along. There are loads of inspiring photos in the galleries too - and I even found beads made by people I know which is always fun (but more likely in the metals books). This review may be of limited use because I'm not a glass bead maker, but from what I could see it had everything I might need to know. It covered not only materials and safety, but lots of variations on beads - enough to keep you interested for a while. Plenty of experienced people have given this book favorable reviews and confirmed that it's great for beginners. Sometimes a book that claims to be the "complete book of" really isn't... but as far as I can tell, this is the real McCoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Heights Arts Holiday Store

Cleveland has a real treasure... last night I worked a shift at the Heights Arts Holiday Store and had the opportunity to see all the wonderful work for sale (and yes, I was inspired to shop too). Heights Arts is a wonderful organization promoting the arts, artists, and arts education in our area. The non-profit organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary - and I remember just 10 years ago when it was merely a vision of the Executive Director, Peggy Spaeth - an artist and tireless champion of the arts.

The Holiday Store features works by dozens of regional artists. It's like having a fine craft show available when you are - it's open Mondays 6:30-9:30 pm
Tuesdays-Saturdays 1:30-9:30 pm and even Christmas Eve: noon-4 pm. And there are post-holiday hours as well - for that Christmas cash burning a hole in your pocket!

So spread a little cheer and support the arts and artists in Cleveland this Holiday Season! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Playing with PMC Pro...

Well, I think I'm hooked... I actually didn't want PMC Pro to work so well because I've never been a fan of the whole carbon business... but it does. This stuff is soooo tough! This ring has a band as thick as a nickel and it won't bend - I tried to twist it and it didn't budge.

Not that I think Pro will replace my other silver clays, but for some applications it's going to be great. Again, not a fan of the carbon, but for making tough rings or delicate parts, I can get around that...

This ring is only 3 cards thick - and with the shrinkage rate being greater than PMC3, the resulting ring is even thinner than you'd expect. C'mon, who would make a PMC ring only 3 cards thick? Not me - till now. I tried to squeeze and crush it and... nothing.

Since that went so well, I made another one like it with some really skinny snakes around the edges (they worked beautifully) - also 3 cards thick and it won't crush either. I've asked students to try to squeeze the rings and they were impressed with the strength too. All the rings were fired in carbon for 1 hour. They were constucted @ 3.5-4 sizes larger. I didn't put any ring plugs in them. I figured if they got too small I'd just stretch them. I did end up stretching the wider band, but that worked just fine. 

And I wondered about making hollow forms - how small and thin could I make them? These tiny lentils (yep, that's a dime) are for earrings. They are only 2 cards thick. They could have been domed more, but I got caught up in the excitement of making them and didn't look for a better dome... 

And now the question you've been waiting for (OK, I was), how well does it WATER ETCH? 

The answer is (after a couple of tries) great! The best result so far is with my favorite wax (Mayco wax resist - on the heart shown here).

I did try my new kistka on this clay because it has worked well on PMC+, but with Pro I had some blistering issues. I shelf fired the all the water etched pieces prior to carbon firing to burn off the wax. 

after carbon firing
after shelf firing
In firing the first piece done with the kistka, I got distracted when I programmed the kiln for the shelf firing and accidently set it for 1400F (firing temp) instead of the recommended shelf firing temp of 1000F (not shown here). I thought the resulting blistering was from shelf firing too hot. So I tried it again with another piece (above right), this time at 1000F - but still got the blistering. Then I decided to try the Mayco wax. This time, after the shelf firing there was no blistering. It did shelf fire for an hour - I intended to stop the kiln after 30 mins but got busy and it ran the whole hour. But I don't think that was the difference. Just to be sure, I'm going to do another piece with the the Mayco wax shelf fired for 30 mins, and one with the kistka wax shelf fired for 1 hour to see if that affects the blistering. All the water etched pieces were then carbon fired (after shelf firing) for an hour. I just wanted to be sure they were fully sintered.

My tests were mostly designed for learning about the strength of this new version of PMC. The shrinkage rate is shown at left with the fired piece and the cutter used to make it. The clay is good and sticky with long working time, though snakes were still subject to cracking if you weren't careful. It made the smoothest slip - letting it rest after mixing is important.

The bails on the water etched pendants are only 2 cards thick and very strong! This two-card bail can't be crushed (with my hands), nor did it snap when I put some pressure on the joint - which was not reinforced from the back.

So I'm impressed. I can see using it for ring bands and more delicate bails and findings. I have many more tests in mind, but so far, so good. I'd love to hear what others think if they've tried it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

PMC Pro - Here we go...

It's finally here! After hearing about this new metal clay product at the PMC Conference this summer, PMC Pro is now available - and my own order is probably somewhere in the middle of the US right now...

Tuesday night I had the opportunity to learn more about this delicious* (OK, not literally) new product. Alison Lee presented one of her fabulous craftcast classes featuring Tim McCreight, with guest comments by Celie Fago, Barbara Becker Simon, and Jeanette Landenwitch. They shared their experiences which provided a lot of insight into using the new material.

Taking a class, (online or otherwise) is a great way to cut your learning curve. I learned some great tips. For some reason, people thought this class was going to be some kind of "infomercial." It was anything but... nobody was selling anything - just sharing their experiences with the material. And we all got the info we needed to get rolling...

Celie Fago's carved ring
Barbara Simon's carved bangle 
One of the things I was thrilled to learn about was how wonderful it is for carving. Both Celie and Barbara commented on how well it worked. I have carved original PMC and loved it. Plus and 3 just don't carve as well. COPPRclay and BRONZclay are good for carving, but when all is said and done, I'm really a silver girl...

Celie Fago tear-away ring
So now I'll get to carve this new stuff and I can't wait! (Hurry UPS!) It takes texture just as beautifully as other versions of PMC - and can accept Keum-boo, though it may be a little more challenging to apply than the fine silver. Celie mentioned that this ring required a little patching... still, it works well enough - and as Celie said "it sticks" which, after all, is the bottom line.

For an hour and thirty minutes we got to hear all about PRO - and ask questions too... there were a lot of questions with about 100 attendees in the class!

Some of the notes from the class are now available on the PMC Guild website.

Just a quick synopsis:
  • This stuff is STRONG! The various strength tests show it to be far superior to any previous PMC formula. You can work thinner without sacrificing strength. 
  • Fired in carbon - 1400ºF for 1 hour (or more, depends on several variables - see the notes). Pieces should be about 1/2" apart (10 cm) and have that much carbon on top and below. Too much carbon will inhibit sintering.
  • Shrinkage is about 15-20%. A bit more than PMC 3 or PMC +
  • Hattie Sanderson added that she sizes rings 3.5 sizes larger to accommodate the shrinkage.
  • Can't be directly mixed with the other clays, but can be joined with the other clays and fired. Requires a shelf firing/carbon firing combo (30 mins shelf 1000ºF; 30 mins 1400ºF carbon).
  • The slip is easy to make - just add water (and lavender oil too - Tim has used this on the greenware as well as the fired clay).
  • As noted above, will accept Keum-boo, no prep necessary.
  • Can be enameled. Using the two-stage shelf firing/carbon firing method is best (per Jeanette Landenwitch). This is not unlike the experience I found with the COPPRclay. Enamel adhered best when it was shelf fired prior to carbon firing.
  • Wash tools between using for other silver clays, just as you would for base metal clays. Do not share sanding tools, as these can load up with material and contaminate your regular clay.
  • The melting point is lower (typical of an alloy) so you have to be sure not to fire with original clay (requiring 1650ºF firing) or use hard solder (flows above the melting point). 
And there's more... when I actually get a chance to play with it, I'll be happy to share what I learn too. Cutting edge stuff - literally, Tim showed a knife he'd made that actually held an edge - pretty cool!

* Barbara Becker Simon's description 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Capturing detail in water etching

As we were planning a water etching demo for class this last session, Maria Hartland (a new student), mentioned that she had done Ukrainian egg painting (Pysanky). It's a beautiful traditional wax resist and dye method of decorating eggs (like batik for fabric). She asked about using the beeswax and stylus (kistka) for water etching. I told her I'd seen it discussed as a possibility a few times on the Yahoo Metal Clay group over the years, but didn't know if anyone ever really pursued it - and I'd never had the chance to try it myself. We were all excited when Maria generously offered to bring her stylus to class for us to try.

The following week, Maria not only brought in the stylus, but some of her beautiful eggs as well. These large ones are ostrich eggs, they're amazingly detailed.

The wax is melted until it flows and is applied with the kistka (stylus). Different size tips give different lines. The painting and dying process builds the colors and takes a great deal of time. She also brought several of her smaller eggs as well, also beautifully done.

Maria brought in two electric kistkas and showed us a traditional one too. The traditional ones are heated with a candle flame to melt the wax. We played a little bit with the electric ones in class, but didn't really have time to do much. She kindly offered to let me borrow one for the week.

Well, darn if the week didn't fly by (as usual)... but the night before I had to return the kistka, I grabbed a couple of dry pieces of clay and played. Let me first say that I've always really loved the brush painting and the flow of the liquid wax (and still do), but after using this handy-dandy little wax application device, all I can say is "wow."

Now, these examples were just tests... but what really impressed me was the control and level of detail I was able to get. The images above are two sides of the same piece. It's PMC+ which is the best for water etching and especially for fine lines. It's only one inch tall after firing and just look at the tiny lines - which dried immediately!  These lines withstood the etching process much better than similar fine lines painted with the liquid wax would have. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to play - so I only tried the one size tip - but there are several sizes available.

This example was the first piece I tried when I was getting the hang of using the kistka and melted wax (hardly a work of art) it's even smaller - only 1/2" tall!

Yes, of course I ordered myself one of these amazing electric kistkas... (now if I could just order some time to play with it!). Will it change the way I water etch? Guess we'll just wait and see.

If you're interested in more info on water etching, Here are some resources. I wrote an article in Art Jewelry Magazine in September 2006. You can also find the instructions I contributed to Sherri Haab's revised and expanded edition of The Art of Metal Clay. And then there's my own little book... The Little Book of Water Etching and Enameling for Metal Clay. Water etching instruction by CeCe Wire can be found in PMC Technic.

If you're interested in getting in touch with Maria about her eggs, you can contact me via comments and I'll pass along your info to her (I won't publish any comment with an email address). 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Old is new, and new is old

Our local chapter of the PMC Guild brought Robert Dancik into town last weekend for a workshop using "Faux Bone," a PVC material he developed. The workshop was a blast. Robert is a wonderful teacher and our group had a great time working with him. Lots of creativity in the air. It was great to spend a weekend just playing...

I have always loved saw-piercing metal and wondered how it would work with the Faux Bone. I decided to give it a try by sawing a cuff bracelet that was inspired by one I'd made 30 years ago as a metals student.

Gail Lannum caught me in the act of sawing...

Alcohol inks were used to color the material. I like the way the white shows around the openings when the color was sanded to tone down the intensity. It's a little rough, but it was a test. I'll probably go back in and finish it a little more one of these days.

Here is my original bracelet. And after all these years, it's still one of my favorite projects from my school days. The section set in the center was my first piece of Mokume-gane.

Many of the pieces made in the workshop took advantage of the possibilities of making Faux Bone look like an ancient relic. Gail made this one in the workshop. It was cool to take this shiny white PVC - something very new - and make it look very old. There are so many things you can do with this material.

We had some serious fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Art of Metal Clay (revised and expanded)

When I saw Sherri Haab at the PMC Conference, she gave me a copy of her revised and expanded book, The Art of Metal Clay. It was fun to see the finished product - Sherri had asked me to contribute to the new section on etching and she included my instructions and photos showing the water etching process.

The new book looks great. I finally had a chance to look it over today - and even found time to check out the DVD that's included. The original edition of the book is one I've always recommended to students, and the new version will now take its place. Sherri does an excellent job of taking the reader through the basics and sample projects that cover a wide variety of techniques. Her instructions are clear, easy to follow, and well illustrated with photos. You'll find instruction in silver, gold, bronze, and copper clays, as well as info on stone setting, mold making, adding resin, polymer clay and much more. 

Several of the sample projects in the book are the same as the first edition, though a number of those are repeated with a different example demonstrated (like the bezel for delicate stones). Other project ideas are expanded with more instruction or information. There are new sections about bronze and copper, etching, and enamel. Some things from the first edition were not included and there are several new gallery images too.

The DVD has four projects (not in the book) and provides an opportunity to watch Sherri at work. It's filmed very well so you can really see how she does each step. My original edition of the book didn't include a DVD (later versions did), so I'm not actually sure if these are new videos or not. 

And I'm not biased just because I'm a contributor. The Art of Metal Clay (revised and expanded) is a thorough and clear instructional book for working with metal clay. Of course, you might guess that I happen to think the water etching part is one of the highlights...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Details, details...

Attending to details has been my focus lately. I've been firing lots of COPPR and BRONZclay inlay pieces from a workshop I taught recently. Fourteen students made dozens of pieces - it was lots of fun... and the detail work of carefully firing all those pieces kept me very busy!

Mentoring details - a bit of adventure this summer has been the chance to act as sort of a mentor for an emerging metal clay artist - a college student who was introduced to me by a metalsmith friend. It's been fun to watch his work evolve as he explores the material on his own - pretty much without instruction or preconceived notions - then he shares his creations and observations with me. It's been fun and different from my usual experience as a teacher. He first tried his hand at silver clay and recently made some really creative rings from the new FastFire BRONZclay. Gotta get those last rings fired before he returns to school. My kilns have been getting quite a workout lately! 

Class details - new classes were listed on my website today. Lots of prep and details for those too. I'm really looking forward to the start of the new session. 

And if you really want to talk about details, check out the amazing jewelry of John Paul Miller. I had a chance to see his work up close again this past weekend - it's on exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. He is known for his incredible work with granulation and enamel. His beautiful presentation renderings and sketch books are on display too. 

A few years ago I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with Mr. Miller about jewelry making and metal clay. You may be surprised to learn that he was among the first artists to try PMC at the Haystack Experimental Workshop in May of 1995. Though he didn't pursue metal clay work, he was very interested to talk about the material and how it had evolved from that first workshop. It would have been great to be in one of Mr. Miller's classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art - some of my friends who are CIA jewelry artists were lucky enough to have that experience. 

Visit the links above, check out some of the images. If you live near the Cleveland Museum of Art, you really should visit and see the work in person - it's all about the details...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The 2010 PMC Conference, inspiration, "big news" and fun.

That's where I was this time last week... the 5th International Precious Metal Clay Conference held at Purdue University. Back in 2002, I attended the very first conference at the College of Wooster and have attended all five. Metal clay has come a long way since then - and it's been pretty amazing to be a part of its evolution.

The speakers and presenters were excellent. Linda Darty's keynote address started us off with some wonderful inspiration - I really enjoyed seeing so much enamel work (as you may know, enamel is near and dear to me). She shared how various events in her life had been a significant influence on her work - the interpretations were wonderful. The second day, Bruce Baker spoke to the group the with lots of energy and insight into the business of craft. He knows the business inside and out and his observations were so interesting. Alison Lee of Craftcast spoke on the third day with a delightful presentation about her "Life in Code." She reminded us how our experiences shape our lives - that when we look back we can see where they have influenced us. And how those of us who have pursued art (for hobby or profession) may have shown some interest/aptitude as children. I could relate to many things she shared about her childhood, specifically the influence of creative parents/grandparents and being given opportunities to try things that sparked even more creativity.

The conference featured some great presentations and demonstrations by many accomplished metal clay artists. I was honored to be among the presenters. And I was sorry I couldn't attend everyone's presentation - we had to choose which ones to attend - and that was really a challenge. The whole time I kept wishing I could be in two places at once!

There was an excellent show titled "Cultural Messages." Well, I heard it was an excellent show... I didn't even get a chance to see it. I kept thinking I'd get to it when I had enough time to see the whole thing but then I never found the time (insert a big frowny face here...). I think the images of the pieces will be online at some point, but it won't be quite the same as seeing it in person.

A new FASTfire BRONZclay was released as of the conference. I haven't fired anything with this new version bronze clay from Metal Adventures, but I've handled it - it has a great texture and consistency. The real advantage is that it will fire in as little as 2 hours!

PMC Pro from Mitsubishi was announced at the conference. There was a lot of buzz about this new material. It's supposed to be stronger than sterling... I tried to bend Barbara Becker Simon's bracelet (she invited me to) and couldn't get it to move. It's 90% silver, which makes it a lower silver content than sterling (.925). This brought a lot of questions about what that remaining 10% might be. Suggestions ranged from copper to germanium to platinum and even aluminum! It may be some combination of the above. We won't know until closer to the release date (October)... the formula is a closely guarded secret - at least until all the patents are in place.

At the 2004 PMC Conference I was privileged to present two seminars. One was on Small Scale Mass Production and the other was on Enameling on PMC. Presenting and preparing two seminars wore me out, so the next two conferences I just attended with no responsibilities. This year, my love of water etching inspired me to offer a Tech Expo presentation on the process - specifically Water Etching on Hollow Forms (another favorite of mine). In addition, I was invited to be part of a demo team during one of the lecture sessions. Sherry Fotopoulos and I had fun demonstrating "Creating with Coils." 

It was so wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones. That was so much fun. I love connecting with artists from all over the world. The people I've met through metal clay are pretty amazing. I'll be counting the days 'till we meet again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zentangles... so there's a name for that?

Recently, I started hearing about a "new" drawing phenomenon called Zentangles. The term started popping up in various blogs I read, so I began to investigate. The word "new" appears in quotes because doodling in this way isn't really new - it surely wasn't new to me... I've been doing it for years - as have many others (like Zoe Nelson and Catherine Witherell). The part that's new, is the phenomenon of lots of people drawing and doodling who weren't in the habit of doodling or making art. It's pretty much gone viral, with workshops, websites, books and related materials - including kits - appearing practically everywhere. There's even Zentangle Flicker Group.

Isn't it great that so many people have discovered this? It's always been a meditative form of drawing for me. Many of my jewelry designs were inspired by these patterned doodles, some of which I've been repeating for over 30 years - which I always just called "doodles." But now, I guess there's another name for it...

Another form of Zentangle that appeared on the scene is the Zendala. Zentangle + Mandala = Zendala (you may have read how much I like Mandalas and creating them in many ways). The images to the left aren't quite the style of the Zentangles drawn in a circle, but they are Mandalas made from some of my favorite doodles with an iPod Touch kaleidoscope program. They were later used as designs under transparent enamel... the possibilities are infinite.

Maybe I'm only helping to fuel the Zentangle "craze" by blogging about it. But this definitely a craze I can support. I love this kind of drawing and have filled pages with similar looking doodles over the years. And I found that many of the patterns I've used are commonly used by other doodlers. No doubt many posted are offshoots of things seen on the internet or in Zentangle instructions, but still, it's kinda fun to see that somebody thought of the same pattern I did - I might see a pattern I started doing 20 or 30 years ago. I hadn't seen theirs - and they hadn't seen mine... I actually think that's pretty cool.

Learning about the Zentangle phenomenon has been useful because for the last several years my doodles have been drawn with only one weight of pen - a fine line marker - mostly because I carry only one such marker with me. And mine look more "sketched" because of it - filling in the larger areas with a fine marker. Vickie Hallmark was inspired to make Zentangles - and hers are far from sketched, they have a cut paper or woodcut print quality. Seeing the various markers people are using for these has reminded me to go back and use different size markers to get more varied line width. I used to use Koh-I-Noor Rapiograph pens for doodles in the days when I did a lot of technical illustration. They aren't so practical for doodles now, but back then I always had them handy.

So grab a pen and start to doodle. You'll get lost. Everything old is new again... I'd be curious to hear how many others have been making "Zentangles" and didn't even know it...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You too can be a winner...

Lucky me! This past week, I won a drawing at Tonya Davidson's blog. Tonya is the driving force behind Whole Lotta Whimsy, one of my favorite places to shop for metal clay stuff... the prize was an Ice Resin Kit and some bezels! And all because I made a comment or two about some of the fantastic projects presented by the Master Muses.

Earlier this year, Tonya, a creative business woman and talented jewelry artist, started a program with 8 other talented artists to creatively meet various project challenges. The Master Muses have come up with some amazing projects which will eventually be available as tutorials so you can see in detail how each project was made. You'll be a winner if you just check out these cool projects - but if you comment on the blog, you'll be entered (just as I was) in the next drawing. Can't win if you don't play... (yes, the link goes where you think it does... how long can I keep mentioning this?).

Tonya's blog is also full of great information on everything from marketing to artistic growth, fashion trends, artist interviews, and more. She's provided the metal clay jewelry community with another great resource. Thanks Tonya, for the Ice Resin Kit, but especially for sharing the Master Muse program and all the other ways you support us as artists... your generosity is appreciated!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The PMC Guild Annual - has it really been a whole year?

The selections have been made for this year's PMC Guild Annual (#4). The jurors have viewed the entries and chosen some great pieces. Some people are thrilled - others aren't so happy. By now, everyone knows the results and those selected have seen a proof of the book. One of the jurors, Lora Hart, reached out to the participants with a blog post to congratulate and console - and she offered some great suggestions to entrants for next time - and read the post following that one too...

Last year, I was a juror for the Annual - an experience I really enjoyed - and like Lora, I felt that I wanted to speak to those whose work was rejected. The blog post I wrote last year, which encouraged people not to let rejection shut them down, was reprinted in Metal Clay Artist Magazine earlier this year. If you have faced rejection, maybe it will be of some help.

As for this year's Annual, I was just a participant in the process... and by the skin of my teeth. I was pleased that the one image I submitted was chosen. Originally, I had great plans to submit a couple of new things I was working on... but when it came down to the deadline, one piece wasn't finished and I couldn't get a photo I liked of the other... so I ended up sending that one image (shot months ago) overnight - for $25.00! Yes, I could have sent it any time before that for about $1.50. Did I learn something? Like maybe to send the one you're sure of - then send the others if you finish them?... (I sure hope so!)

Congratulations to everyone whose work was chosen. And to everyone else, don't fret, get busy - because next year will be here before you know it...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Listening to the Universe...

Today I walked into our local bead shop and was greeted by the owner's incredulous sounding voice saying "Cathy???" and wasn't quite sure how to react. Denise Newman, the owner of the Isle of Beads, (say that out loud and you'll hear "I love beads") went on to explain that the customer she was helping had inquired about metal clay classes. Denise told her that if she wanted to take a class from someone in the area she should look me up. She had just told this to the customer and mentioned that I hadn't been in the store for several months... when I walked in the door (cue the Outer Limits music). We were all a bit stunned. I talked with the customer for a few minutes and provided some information about classes. After she left, we remarked again at the odds of this occurrence. Then Denise made a comment to the effect that this wasn't just the "Universe" gently suggesting that this person take metal clay classes - it was practically a full-out smack on the forehead... I had to agree... even more so because my plan was to be there earlier in the day, but other events delayed me. The other cool thing is that I went to the bead shop looking for a certain bead which is no longer available (because the source disappeared) in hopes that Denise could find it for me... and oddly enough, a rep who might be able to get it is coming tomorrow - so I can bring back a sample bead to see what he can do.

I'm pretty open minded. I'm sure not going to argue with such so-called coincidences... as a matter of fact, my whole day really went like that. Maybe I was tuned in. Things just clicked - from an early morning meeting, to a visit to our podiatrist, to finding the only halfway decent gluten-free beer on sale at Whole Foods!

This afternoon, I visited a gallery that carries my work. When I walked in there I was greeted with "I owe you some money," and left with a check and a request for some pendant and earring sets.

After that, a good visit with a friend, followed by a trip to Trader Joe's where (after filling my cart with goodies), I found this red wine we'd liked, but couldn't remember where it we'd gotten it. Funny thing is, I looked last time I was at TJ's with no luck...

With a day like this, you can bet that when the cashier at Trader Joe's asked me to fill out the raffle ticket for bringing my own bags, I jumped at the chance... after all, you can't win if you don't play... and who knows?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Heikki Seppä

Last week, I learned of the death of a talented metalsmith and innovator. Finnish-born artist Heikki Seppä, died May 18th at age 83. His work first came to my attention in 1978 when I was in college studying metal crafts. That was the year his book Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths was published, introducing new ideas and a new vocabulary to metalsmithing. In one of my classes, we were working with raised forms and practiced making various synclastic and anticlastic curved forms in metal. We were moving metal in ways we hadn't even considered before. Seppä developed these forms to create his shell structures–lightweight hollow forms that were curved, graceful, and just plain amazing. The sinusoidal stake is his invention, too. It's a wobbly looking tapered metal stake designed to facilitate the shaping of these unique forms. 

Seppä is also credited with pioneering work in metal surface reticulation, something he brought to the United States after training with a former Fabergé artist. The technique was developed in the late 1800's in Czarist Russia and used by Fabergé and other court jewelers to create textured objects.

Reticulation, an unpredictable organic-looking torch-created texture, is usually done with a silver alloy (also possible with a gold alloy). The technique is based on the fact that a pure metal and an alloy have different melting points and rates of expansion/contraction. A layer of pure metal is raised to the surface of the sheet of metal by depletion gilding (a repetitive process of heating and pickling to remove the copper oxide from the surface layer). The resulting sheet is then heated with the torch to a point at which the interior alloy begins to melt but the surface "skin" is only softened. As the piece cools and the alloy contracts, the surface becomes covered with ridges. Reticulation silver sheet can be purchased from jewelry suppliers like Rio Grande. It is not sterling. Its higher copper content lowers the melting point of the alloy, creating less risk of melting the surface layer and a more dramatic effect.

Another contribution credited to Seppä is his work with roll-printing. This is transferring a texture onto a metal surface using a rolling mill (not unlike what metal clay artists do to transfer a texture to the metal clay without the rolling mill).

A great book for both the anitclastic raising and reticulation techniques is Metals Technic, from Brynmorgen Press. Heikki Seppä contributed the chapter on Reticulation, and artist Michael Good, who studied with Seppä in 1979, contributed the Anticlastic Raising chapter. Good has developed and expanded the techniques in this form of metalsmithing and his work is simply stunning.

It's been ages since I've tried either of these techniques, but in the past few years I have thought often about trying my hand at the raising techniques again. I can make some time to do that, right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time flies when you have a deadline...

Where did the last three-plus weeks go? It's amazing how time flies when you're trying to be creative (and productive) under a deadline...  although sometimes, it both flies and drags. The creative process never ceases to amaze me. This is especially true when I'm under one of those deadlines and feel like I'm not completely satisfied with the expression of an idea (or not happy with the progress of a project), and then something clicks–it just comes together. When the process drags, it's usually because I've forgotten that trying too hard to be creative can get in the way of letting the process follow its natural course. Deadlines can make this a real challenge. I definitely got caught up in that for a while this time and didn't do a good job of telling myself to "relax and let it happen." You'd think I'd know better.

But you might ask, "how can you relax when you have a deadline?" This surely seems a contradiction. I think it goes back to the old saying, "slow and steady wins the race." I can't really explain how or why it happens, but I know from experience that it does. If I keep heading toward my goal with an open mind, a project always seems to come together. Sometimes it's sort of an "ah-ha" moment, other times, it falls into place more gradually. And it isn't always exactly what I envisioned, as a matter of fact, it's usually better. But the trick is, I can't slack off and just wait for this to happen–I have to keep moving forward.

Now, this is not foolproof... there are plenty of times when I'm under a deadline that it still gets all "crunchy" toward the end. But in hindsight, those are the times that I tried to control the process too much. Sometimes that "ah-ha" moment comes when I've exhausted myself trying to make something work (the way I think it should) and I'm done in... so I back off, and voilà! When a project drags, I need to remind myself that I don't have to get to that point of exhaustion (or frustration) before the process will flow. Creativity happens, but you have to remember to give it the opportunity. Relax, work with confidence, and trust that it will come together.

It's so easy to get caught up in deadlines and forget to follow our instincts, (or listen to our own advice). I really need to find a good way to remind myself to trust the creative process when I'm in the midst of it all. Maybe I need a sign in my studio that reads "it'll happen–just get out of the way!"

To learn more about trusting the process, read my February post about an excellent book on this subject.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

And the winner is...

Or should I say "and the winners are..."

Thanks to the generosity of Lora Hart, not one but TWO names were drawn today for a copy of Bronze Metal Clay! Lora was also sent a copy for review and kindly offered to pass it along in the drawing.

Approaching this drawing was harder than I expected... especially with some of the compelling comments... The drawing was made using a random number generator and assigning a number to each of the comments (knowing that I would discard the numbers of the comments by me or others not included if they came up), this seemed the most fair - to use the actual comment number, not an altered one created by removing some comments.

Have I kept you in suspense long enough?

The winners are (drum roll please...) Susan Dilger and Vickie Hallmark!


Please leave your email address as a comment (which won't be published) and I'll contact you for your mailing address.

Thanks to everyone for playing... (I wish each of you could have won a copy!!!)

Friday, April 30, 2010

You don't have to ask me twice... (but I'm glad you did!)

About a week ago, when I checked my post office box, I found a package from Lark Books addressed to me as blogger/reviewer. Inside, I was surprised and pleased to find copy of Yvonne Padilla's new book Bronze Metal Clay for review. What fun to get an early peek at this new book! I started looking it over right away. The next day, a package arrived at my home. It was another copy of the book sent for review. It appears I'm on more than one list - and the very best part of the duplicate mailing is that someone gets to share the fun...

Lark Books has published many of my favorite books in the jewelry/craft field. Yvonne M. Padilla has written another great addition to the Lark collection. This new book is a comprehensive guide to working with bronze clay. The basics are covered thoroughly in a question and answer format with an illustrated troubleshooting section that addresses many common problems. A wonderful gallery of bronze clay work by a variety of artists provides inspiration and 35 projects from very simple to more complex are presented to get you started. The book is well designed, and the projects, photographs, and illustrations are nicely integrated, making it very pleasant read.

Here's the fun part: since I was sent two copies of the book, I'm giving one away! If you'd like to have a chance to have my extra copy of Bronze Metal Clay, please leave a comment after this post - it need not be more than something like "I'd like a chance to win." If you don't have a profile and leave an anonymous comment, be sure to leave me a clue (like your first name and last initial)! Next Friday, I'll announce a winner chosen at random. So check back to see if you've won! I'll provide information about how the winner can contact me and let me know where to send the book.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More old silly... the unfortunates.

It's silly how busy I've been. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to post. Here are a couple of more silly old silly cards... both from what I affectionately call the "unfortunate" series @1985.

© 1985 Catherine Davies Paetz

Monday, April 19, 2010

Silly old silly...

Well, I've been trying to be more silly, which for me, includes trying to keep up with the Silliness workshop. It seems the first silly thing I did was to think I'd have time for this workshop... the second was to buy more sidewalk chalk... (now I'm prepared!).

I'm batting about 50% for some of the drawing activities (which isn't bad considering...). Just need (more) time to scan them into the computer and upload to Flicker. So while I don't have any more new silly to share yet, I thought (just for fun) I'd share some "old silly."

Once upon a time, I used to illustrate greeting cards - lots of them. I don't think I bought any cards for about a decade or so... I just drew them. In honor of my birthday (last week), here's a silly old birthday card I drew - circa 1986...

Card front and inside © 1986 Catherine Davies Paetz

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I feel a little silly...

And I'm not alone. There a quite a few of us feeling silly right now thanks to Carla Sonheim. We're all thinking silly thoughts as we participate in her online workshop in The Art of Silliness. When I saw this opportunity, I jumped on it. No arm twisting needed - I was raised on silly (thanks Parents!). A favorite childhood book is The Silly Book by Stoo Hample. I've always thought being a cartoonist was a dream job - need I say more?

Of course this wonderful adventure came along in a month that's already silly with deadlines, but I will do my best to play along. And what I don't finish this month - especially all the "extra credit" opportunities - will surely keep me silly all summer. Yep, silly days are definitely ahead. I did say I wanted to draw more - I just hadn't gotten around to it until this opportunity came along. Maybe it was because I thought I had to draw serious things, but that's not really my style. Ah, the freedom of silly...

I'm really looking forward to getting my (silly) drawing chops back in shape - they're extremely rusty. I didn't know how much I missed them until I started this workshop. There's a Flicker group where I plan to post and will also share some silly things here.

"I am silly, You are silly, All of us are silly, Willy. All of us but cousin Millie. She's upside down." The Silly Book

Special thanks to Ruth Baillie for bringing this workshop to my attention!!!!

More silly workshop stuff... 
If I had sidewalk chalk (yes, we're out - and at time like this) I'd be out there putting X's everywhere and watching what happened for sure. I have a history of finding random chalk on the sidewalk and leaving silly faces for the kids who left it there... note to self: BUY MORE CHALK!
This is noteworthy!
From serious to silly in the blink of an eye...